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Any radiation is hazardous
Joseph J. Mangano, MPH, MBA

Letters To The Editor
Pottstown (PA) Mercury
Monday, April 6, 2009

Karen Walsh, who claims that nuclear power is "clean, safe, and reliable" (Readers' Views March 15), is not a health professional, but a communications specialist and political strategist. She works for the PA Energy Alliance, whose mission is to promote nuclear power, i.e. make lots of money from running nuclear reactors. Her statements illustrate how science can be politicized — while people suffer needlessly.

Here then, are the facts about nuclear reactors — facts documented by experts:

Nuclear reactors like Limerick create the same materials found in atomic bombs (Cesium-137, Iodine-131, Strontium-90, etc.). Each causes cancer and is especially harmful to the fetus, infant, and child.

The amount of these radioactive poisons in reactors is massive, equal to several hundred Hiroshima bombs. A meltdown from an accident or terrorist attack would cause many thousands to suffer from radiation poisoning or cancer. Most radioactivity is stored at plants like Limerick , but some must be routinely released into local air and water, entering bodies by breathing and the food chain.

The radioactivity absorbed is relatively low dose, but not necessarily safe. A 2005 report by experts at the National Academy of Sciences reviewed several hundred scientific articles, and concluded even low radiation doses are harmful to humans.

Ms. Walsh cites a 2004 Columbia University study that followed U.S. nuclear workers for 15 years had reported they had low cancer rates. But she ignores a 2008 study in a scientific journal tracking Canadian nuclear workers for 57 years that found the higher the radiation exposure, the higher the risk of cancer death.

She also ignores several recent studies showing those most sensitive to radiation - children near reactors - suffer from high cancer rates. The largest such study was in Germany , and similar results were found in the U.S. Dr. Jun Li of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that radiation exposure may be one reason why childhood cancer is highest in the northeast.

Ms. Walsh also makes the preposterous claim that nuclear power is the "only energy source that can reliably generate electricity with no harmful greenhouse gas emissions," blatantly ignoring safe sources like wind and solar power.

The "truths" about nuclear power should not come from biased non-scientists who make lots of money from reactors, but from educated, unbiased scientists.


Joseph J. Mangano MPH MBA is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, a research and education group based in New York.

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